PINEVILLE, La. – November is Native American and Alaskan Heritage Month, a time to acknowledge the rich and diverse cultures and histories of native Alaskans and Native Americans.
Louisiana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Bruce A. Phillips Jr. is a proud Native American who has served in the military for over 21 years.
In 2002, Phillips enlisted in the National Guard as an aircraft fueler, reclassing to human resources specialist in 2013. He deployed to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“From maintaining personnel readiness to ensuring aircraft do not fall from the sky, I enjoy being trained in a variety of skill sets,” said Phillips. “This diversity in skills allows me to better serve the LANG and the people of Jackson Barracks.”
Phillips didn’t plan on a military career.
“My grandfather served in Vietnam,” Phillips explained. “Listening to his stories and watching how he carried himself was a huge influence on me. His guidance has led me in both my military career as well as my personal life.”
His father played a pivotal role in developing an appreciation for his Native American heritage and a positive approach to life.
“I looked up the most to my father,” said Phillips. “He taught me how a man should be, how a man should lead and to be a chief at everything you do. He also taught me to be a good cook and hunter and to provide for my family.”
Phillips continues some of the traditions of his Native American lineage. He attends powwows, has dreamcatchers and uses home remedies.
“I still attend traditional things like powwows, but I especially enjoy fishing and bow hunting. And we Native Americans have such good hair,” he joked.
When not working at Jackson Barracks or responding to natural disasters, Phillips enjoys spending time with his wife and kids.
As a federal technician and reservist with the LANG, Phillips says he understands the benefits of being a Guardsman and serving the community.
“This is an excellent way to earn a college degree while enjoying other benefits the Guard has to offer,” he said. “Living the Guard lifestyle teaches you how to thrive in the civilian world, both mentally and physically. The money and friendships are also an enjoyable part of what the Louisiana National Guard has to offer.”
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”), have been issued each year since 1994.
“We are all people under the same roof,” Phillips said. “This month not only benefits Native Americans but people of every heritage that have contributed to what American culture is today. ... We are all in this world together with nowhere else to go, so let’s work together.”